News stories appear with alarming
regularity of moms who do the unthinkable: Kill their children. Occasionally, postpartum psychosis, or an extreme episode of mental illness directly after childbirth is linked to this. Reactions to these
news reports brand sufferers as “monsters”, but the symptoms of this
devastating condition are not that mystical, and, when identified are often
Postpartum psychosis is rarely linked to
suicide or infanticide, those being more commonly linked to postpartum
depression, however, without treatment, both mother and child may be at risk.
What is it?
Postpartum psychosis is described as a
group of mental illnesses which may occur as pre-existent mental illnesses, or only
present post-birth. It has been closely linked to manic depressive (bipolar)
disorder and menstrual psychosis. Some medical professionals consider
postpartum depression to be directly related, while others see PPD as a
Its incidence is reportedly seen in 1-2
per 1000 births, although this figure shoots up by more than 100% when the patient
has a previously diagnosed bipolar condition or another birth in which she
experienced postpartum psychosis. It has also been linked to genetic/heritable
factors. Comparatively, ordinary "Baby Blues" is reported in around half of new moms, appearing 3-4 days after birth, and postnatal depression occurs in around 10-15 out of every 100.
Mothers who suffer an episode are liable
to other manic depressive or acute polymorphic episodes, some of which occur
after other children are born, some during pregnancy or after an abortion, and
some unrelated to childbearing. Expectant moms who are on medication or
treatment for bipolar disorder or depression should seek the advice of a doctor
before stopping medication.
Watch out for these warning signs:
These are some warning signs that you (or
someone you know) may be suffering from postpartum psychosis:
- Delusions or strange beliefs (occasionally with
- Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that
- Feeling very irritated
- Decreased need for or inability to sleep
- Paranoia and suspiciousness
- Rapid mood swings
- Difficulty communicating at times/disorganised
Some switch between mania to depression within the same episode.
The manic or acute state is usually
noticeable within 14 days of the birth, while the depressive behaviour developing
Treatment for postpartum psychosis depends
on the condition of the patient and may vary from tranquilisation, mood-stabilising
medication and electro-convulsive (electroshock) therapy in combination with
hospitalisation and observation, or close observation in a home environment. In
the latter, a medical professional will closely monitor the recovery of the
patient. Home-based treatment is preferred where possible, as the mother will
be able to spend more time bonding with the newborn baby under supervision. Close friends or family may be asked to assist in mom's recovery.
It is vital to recognise that postpartum
psychosis is not a condition which is under the control of the mother- you are
not to blame- but it is essential to get treatment.
Information: via Postpartum Support International, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Wikipedia,
Have you ever seen a new mom who has
exhibited bizarre behaviour?